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Adventures in old Persia

Book Review: The Physician

It's not often that you stumble upon a book that has so many good elements, and it's even rarer that any of those involve Iran in any positive way.
But "The Physician" by Noah Gordon (Mass Market Paperback, published by Fawcett Books, 1991) comes about as close to a perfect novel for an Iranian as I have seen.

Simply put, if you are an Iranian and have had the slightest desire to read one contemporary novel, this should be the one.

The story follows the travels of a young child in medieval England from boyhood to manhood. Aafter becoming an orphan, he is taken under apprenticeship by what was then called a barber-surgeon. Half snake-oil salesman and entertainer, half rudimentary doctor, they travel from town to village selling the "Universal Physick" or cheap liquor mixed with herbs and special plants as a cure for everything.

It is here I found the book's sweetest part. Aas they traveled they would camp along the way and the boy's master would cook some of the most delicious foods. The way Gordon described them made my mouth water and I wished I was there.

The boy is fascinated by and naturally gifted in helping people become well and decides he must become a doctor.

It is here where we learn that at the time the best school in the world for medicine is in Iran at the famous Ibn Sina school in Isfahan. However, relations between Christians and Moslems is not at their best and there is a strict rule against allowing Christians in the school. Jews however, are permitted upon exception and much reference. He decides to pass himself off as a Jew and goes so far as to learn Farsi in order to gain entrance.

I will not go further, however this is where I was most fascinated by the book. The author basically explains the principles behind each religion in such detail and understanding that you come away very well informed.

The details of Iran at the time, the politics, the realities of a Shahanshah, the culture, food, harems, sports, and arts are all so beautifully described you wish you were back home. The tale is told from a perspective so different and so fresh, it gives you a whole new sense of the world then.

So, in conclusion;

Medieval England,
Great food,
Travels and adventures in far off exotic lands,
The three major religions, their practices, customs and traditions,

You can order "The Physician" from, the world's largest online bookstore. THE IRANIAN is an associate of Click here.
Related links
* Also by Bruce Bahmani
-- Areh joon-e ammat... Reacting to a James Bond flick in a Tehran movie house.
-- Taghziyeh Raygan: Mimas or Danish?... Learing the art of trade in a school in Terhan.
-- Princes of Persia... An interview with Shahin & Sepehr
-- Pesare Darya (Aqua Boy)... An interview with the owner of an adventurous tour operator


Bruce Bahmani lives, reads and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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